After a few weeks of getting used to how education looks this year parents, students, and educators everywhere are in a world of uncharted waters. Families are facing new challenges every day and parents are being asked to take on a whole different kind of role with their children.
All of the fast transitions are overwhelming, and we will find ourselves asking, “Am I doing this right?” and “How am I going to last beyond two weeks?”
Establish a Daily Routine
Studies have shown that children, and most adults, thrive on a routine. The routine should consist of academic time with structured breaks throughout the day for the mind and body. The routine for all ages should mimic the school day the student just left behind.
Creating a daily plan is not just a matter of scheduling. A daily plan looks at the schedule and then identifies to-do items for that day and combines the two for a specific plan for that specific day
during this time at home, it is also very important to consider your own needs as a parent and to prioritize them. Ensure you have time to shower, sleep, and have some moments of quiet time throughout the day. Plan for predictable afternoons and relaxing evenings with your children, and as much as possible plan for them to be as typical as they would be during the normal school week.
Set Up a Virtual Learning Space
As we navigate the extended period of time at home, it will be very important for you and your child to have a specific space for learning. The space should be an area you and your learner create together to ensure that it is an environment that promotes excitement towards learning.
Here are some things to consider when setting up a learning space:
- ensure the space has appropriate seating for the age of your learner
- center it around a hard surface for a device, writing, and reading materials
- little to no noise at all
- well-lit with as much natural light as possible
- spacious enough for you and your child to work together
- access to outlets as devices will need chargers to continue virtual learning.
If you are working with multiple children in your family, consider giving each child their own basket with supplies and a place to store materials specific to them, just as they would have at school. This will provide a sense of ownership to their space. In each student’s basket, you can provide pencils, paper, books, headphones, and any other materials they may need. The basket is also a handy place to store a water bottle or cup, so you don’t have to keep washing used ones throughout the day!
All learning materials should stay in this learning space, just as they would at school, so if possible, set this space up out of the way of the area your family uses for relaxing and other family activities.
Identify and Ease Motivation Challenges
At times, motivating your child to complete a task is easy and other times it is the complete opposite. Finding consistency with intrinsic motivation is extremely challenging, especially in a world that has completely turned upside down as we all have just experienced.
As your child navigates difficult challenges in their learning:
- help them identify the criteria it will take to be successful
- show them their progress along the way
- acknowledge their feelings along the way
- support them enough so they can be successful
A positive motivator is to offer a child some type of choice in how they complete a task. This provides autonomy over a task, which allows the learner to be an agent over their own learning. Once the child is given this opportunity for choice, then you as the parent can simply act as a guide, then celebrate together once you are both successful. Celebrations should be activity based such as:
- family movie night and they choose the movie
- staying up a few minutes later (not too much later!)
- baking cookies together
- dance parties in the kitchen
- any other reward that is not necessarily a physical item or time on a device
Parents, children, and educators everywhere are in a world of unknown right now, all trying to survive and thrive with virtual learning. We must be patient, understanding, and work together to support our children to the best of our ability at this time. As you work at home to support your young learner, setting up a routine for them and providing a learning space will give them a structure they crave while they aren’t able to attend school.
Finding the balance between home comforts and study time is challenging and it will take time as your relationship molds to this new level. Motivators will likely look different each week so celebrate the small stuff and enjoy the time with your family!
Don’t teach–help them understand
Helping students understand is one of the more obvious remote learning tips for parents. This could be the topic for an entire book because how this happens is complicated and varies greatly from student to student and grade level to grade level and content area to content area.
Imagine the parent of a second-grade student helping them complete an essay on their favorite cookie versus the parent of a high school senior helping them with a Calculus problem or an analysis of Shakespearean versus Petrarchan meter. The former is a matter of sitting with your child, while the latter is going to likely require that you learn alongside your child–or even learn it first yourself and then review it with them after.
The bottom line is that helping your child understand the content is definitely part of the ‘bare minimum’ range of tips.
Help them check messages and communicate with school
Check for messages daily from teachers and other students and make sure to reply to any messages that require one.
Learn to identify the barriers
This is something teachers have to learn early on in their careers–how to pinpoint exactly what’s happening or going wrong. Diagnostic teaching is one approach that can help here but the big idea is to identify precisely why your child might be struggling: Is it focus? Motivation? Too much or too little structure? Do they need a hug or finger-wagging or for you to sit with them?
And if it’s a knowledge deficit, exactly what do they not understand? When students say, ‘I don’t get it,’ the first step is to identify exactly what ‘it’ is–and this isn’t always easy. Most students don’t know what they don’t know. That’s why you are there to help them making this an especially powerful remote learning tip for parents.
Use school resources
Contact your child’s school, as well as the local school district and state education resources for support. This is especially critical if your child has an IEP or 504 plan and requires additional support and services at school.
Encourage a growth mindset
This isn’t about what to learn or how to learn but rather how to think about what they’re learning. For a somewhat-related post, you can see ‘Alternatives To Asking Your Child What They Learned In School Today.’
Help your child build a learning network
Connect them with their peers–ideally peers with similar goals and approaches to ‘life’ to their own (e.g., connecting your child who wants to study medicine in college with other students and groups with students who have similar ambitions.)